Paul Goes to Jerusalem


Scripture Reference:
Acts 20:13 through 22:29

Story Overview: On this return portion of his 3rd Missionary Journey Paul is compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem.  Stopping at churches along the way to say his farewells Paul is determined to make it to Jerusalem before Pentecost.  In Caesarea, near Jerusalem, a man named Agabus prophesied that the Jews in Jerusalem would harm Paul if he went there and this is indeed what happened.  He was wrongly accused and imprisoned.  Despite all of this Paul continues to preach about Jesus.

Suggested Emphasis: Have the courage to do what is right even if others (friends or enemies) oppose us.

Background Study
Way to Introduce the Story
The Story
Review Questions
Craft and Activity Ideas
Other Online Resources

Background Study:

Click here for an overview of the Book of Acts

03_Paul_Troas_Miletus_1024

11_Paul_Jerusalem_Return_1024This 3rd Missionary Journey had begun, as usual, in Antioch.  Travelling over land Paul passed through places where he had established churches on his 1st Missionary Journey and 2nd Missionary Journey before arriving in Ephesus and staying for over 2 years.  This 3rd Journey took Paul through Macedonia and Greece.  From there he retraced his steps part of the way before making a notable stop in Troas (where young Eutychus falls from a window).  Today’s lesson begins immediately following Paul’s time in Troas.

Directly following the raising of Eutychus in Troas we now find Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey drawing to a close and him determined to go to Jerusalem before Pentecost.

Quickly travelling through Assos, Mitylene, Kios, Samos and sailing past Ephesus Paul arrived in Miletus.  From there he sent for the Ephesian elders.  In this very emotional meeting he encouraged and instructed them on how to keep watch over their “flock” (congregations) .  He tells them that he will not see them again and that he is “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem.

Other quick stops along the way were Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia.  The ship sailed by Cyprus and stopped in Tyre before landing in Ptolemais.  Paul’s group travelled overland to the Gentile city of Caesarea which was the capital of Roman Judea and the place where the first Gentile, Cornelius, had become a Christian.

They stayed in the house of Philip, the evangelist.  Philip was the one who baptised the Ethiopian Eunuch and the last verse of Acts 8 might indicate that he had stayed in the area of Caesarea since that time.

It was here at Philip’s house that a prophet named Agabus came from Judea and prohesied to Paul both in words and by acting it out.  This was not the first time they had met.  Fifteen years earlier, while at the Antioch church, Agabus’ prophecy of a famine resulted in Paul and Barnabas being sent by the Antioch church to take a gift to the Christians living in Judea (Acts 11:27-30).  Now, here they are together again in Judea with Agabus prophesying.  Agabus used Paul’s belt to tie up his hands and feet.  The prophecy was that the Jews in Jerusalem would also tie Paul up.

Despite their pleading, Paul continued.  Some disciples from Caesarea accompanied Paul on the 100 kilometre (62 mile) trek to Jerusalem and took him to stay in the home of a man called Mnason (from Cyprus).

This marks the End of Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey.  Paul had completed his visits to churches.  The events in Jerusalem from this time forward lead Paul toward one destination, Rome.

The day after arriving in Jerusalem Paul went to see James and met with all the elders in Jerusalem.  This James is the brother of Jesus and the author of the New Testament book of James, not one of the original 12 Apostles.

Although Paul’s mission to teach the Gentiles was clear it was always a point of contention between both Christian and non-Christian Jews.  The non-Christian Jews would often try to use Paul’s association with Gentiles against him.  Even Christian Jews sometimes had a hard time accepting that Gentiles could become Christians without being Jews too.  The elders asked Paul to join in a purification right at the Jewish temple to show all the Jews that he was not an enemy of the Jews.  Paul participated in the 7 day custom because he loved the Jewish people and wanted all of them to obey God and follow God’s Son, Jesus.  Paul is quite clear in his other writings about living under the new law and not the old (Galatians 3:23-25, among others).  This vow was most likely a personal voluntary vow as in Numbers 6:2-12 and not a requirement of the law.

False rumours by the Jewish leaders about Paul defiling the temple led to an angry mob beating Paul.  A commander of Roman troops saw the crowd getting out of control and rushed in to see what was happening.  After arresting him the commander allowed Paul to address the crowd.  Paul told the crowd about his conversion but when he again brought up teaching Gentiles the crowd became furious.

The Commander ordered Paul flogged (whipped) but, when Paul revealed his Roman citizenship, everything stopped.  Roman citizens had special rights and the commander did not want to get in trouble with the Roman government.  He wanted to find out exactly why the Jews were accusing Paul so he arranged a meeting the next day with the Jewish leaders.

This is covered in the story Paul’s Nephew Uncovers a Plot.

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Way to Introduce the Story:
Who do you know who is brave? (let them answer).  What does it mean when a person is brave?  What about a fireman that goes into a burning building to rescue someone who is inside?  Would he have to be brave?  Today we are going to learn about someone in the bible who was very brave.  Many people told Paul it was dangerous to go to the city of Jerusalem but the Holy Spirit told him to do the brave thing and go.  What do you think Paul chose to do?  Let’s find out…
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The Story:
(Note from Mary: This story is quite long and could actually be divided into two lessons.  Part one could cover Paul’s trip to Jerusalem and part two could be about what happened in Jerusalem.  In particular, if you are teaching younger children I would suggest choosing only one part of the story to concentrate on.  )

Paul was a missionary who travelled to many places teaching people about Jesus.  Paul wanted everyone to know that Jesus had died on the cross for them and that he had risen from the dead.

Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey had started in Antioch but he had travelled all the way to Greece and even Corinth telling people about God and Jesus.  But God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit always agree and they had a plan for where Paul would go next.  The Holy Spirit began to reveal to Paul that it was time to go to Jerusalem.  Paul began to travel the very long distance back toward Jerusalem.

As he travelled the Holy Spirit also began warning Paul that going to Jerusalem meant that he would have many hardships and even go to prison.  Paul knew that obeying God sometimes means that we have to do very difficult things.  But, even though it would be difficult, Paul listened to the Holy Spirit and obeyed God’s plans.

Paul wanted to get to Jerusalem before the special celebration called Pentecost so he travelled quickly.  Sometimes he walked but most of the time he sailed with his friends on a ship.

But even though he was in a hurry he sent word for some of his friends from Ephesus to meet him in a place along the way called Miletus.  These friends were elders and Paul told them to always take care of the church in Ephesus.  It was their responsibility to be leaders and always help people follow Jesus.

After they had prayed together Paul told them goodbye.  The elders did not want Paul to leave and go to Jerusalem.  Especially when he told them that there would be dangers there and that he would never see him again.

But Paul continued on his journey.  When the ship stopped in the city of Tyre Paul visited the disciples there.  As he left the men, women and children in the church walked with Paul all the way to the beach and prayed with him before he got back on the ship.

Eventually, Paul’s ship docked in the city of Caesarea.  Paul met with the Christians there and stayed in the home of Philip, the evangelist.  A prophet called Agabus also lived in Caesarea.  When the prophet heard that Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem he acted out a prophecy to show Paul the future.  He took Paul’s belt and tied it around his hands and feet.

Then he said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

When the others heard this try tried to persuade Paul not to go to Jerusalem.  But Paul remembered that the Holy Spirit had guided him.  He chose to follow the Spirit and go on to Jerusalem.  This was now the end of Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey.  Paul had obeyed God and now God would use Paul in amazing new ways.

In Jerusalem James, the brother of Jesus, was a leader in the church.  Paul told James and others in the church about his Missionary Journeys and how that both Jews and Gentiles had become followers of Jesus.  James was happy to hear about Paul’s missionary work.

But there were many arguments and angry people in Jerusalem.  Since Paul was a Jew he tried to show that he respected the Jewish people.  He went to the temple and participated in a ceremony.  But some of the Jews got very angry and told lies about Paul.  They said he had shown disrespect in the temple.  A crowd gathered and they became so angry that they drug Paul out of the temple area and began to beat him.

When news reached the Roman commander that the city of Jerusalem was in an uproar he and his soldiers rushed in to stop the riot.  The commander arrested Paul and put chains on him.  The crowd was so angry and loud that the commander could not even hear Paul answer the questions.  Finally, Paul was taken up the steps to the military barracks.

On the way into the barracks the commander allowed Paul to speak to the crowd one more time.  At first everyone calmed down and listened.  Paul told them all about how a miracle had happened to him and that he had become a follower of Jesus.  But when Paul said that Jesus had told him to go and teach the Gentiles about Jesus the crowd became angry all over again.  They thought Jews were better than Gentiles.  Some thought that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could follow God.

So Paul was taken into the barracks away from the crowd.  The Roman soldiers were about to whip Paul but he said something that made them stop.

Paul said, “I am a Roman citizen.”

Everyone stopped what they were doing.  There were very important laws about Roman citizens.  Roman citizens were not supposed to be put in chains and beaten unless they had first had a fair trial.  Soldiers could get in a lot of trouble if they did not obey the rules.

So the soldiers told the commander and the commander decided that Paul must have a chance to tell his side of the story.  A time to meet was set up for the very next day.

Paul had shared the news of Jesus when he was a free man.  Now he was going to be telling about Jesus when he was in prison.  Paul had the courage to do what was right no matter where he was or who he was with.

Visual Aids:  You might like to try telling the story using one of the following free visual aids.  The first and second work well if you are showing it on a computer, laptop or tablet. The third one works well for printing.  Or view the online slideshow below if you prefer not to download.

  1. Paul Goes to Jerusalem_Slideshow to download
  2. (.pptx 8.2 MB file size)
  3. Paul Goes to Jerusalem_Slideshow to download_older format
    (.ppt 8.6 MB file size)
  4. Paul Goes to Jerusalem_Visual Aid to download and print
  5. (.pdf 3.1 MB file size)

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Review Questions:

  1. Even though people told Paul that there was much danger there, what city did Paul really want to go to? Jerusalem
  2. Why did the prophet, Agabus, use Paul’s belt to tie his own hands and feet? He was acting out the message: “the Holy Spirit says that the owner of the belt will be tied up by the Jews”.
  3. What did the Jews in Jerusalem say Paul was doing wrong? They said he was bringing Gentiles into the temple area where only Jews could go.
  4. Why did the Roman soldiers carry Paul to their barracks? To arrest him and save him from the angry mob of Jews who were trying to kill him.
  5. What did Paul do when he was on the steps of the soldiers’ barracks? He preached about Jesus.
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Craft and Activity ideas for the class (choose age appropriate ones):

  • Have the children role play waking up and getting ready to attend the Sunday morning worship assembly. The phone rings and the child answers it. The teacher or another child speaks as if on the other end of the line. This person is trying to convince the first child that he should do something else instead of attend worship. The first child chooses to do right in spite of opposition. Act this out a few times using different situations (friend, cousin, coach, or anyone could be ringing them.)
  • Song: I Can Be a Missionary
  • Craft: Make a relief map of Paul’s Journies featuring the place in today’s story. If you are studying about Paul’s journies over a few lessons then you could add more details to the map each time you learn about another stop on the journey. Instructions on how to make a relief map at http://www.squidoo.com/salt-dough-maps
  • Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
  • Acts_PaulFind other ideas on the Pinterest Board “Acts:Life of Paul”

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Other Online Resources:

Teachers love hearing ideas from other teachers! Share your ideas here.

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